Katie Meyer

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

In hopes of finally finishing the budget that was due at the end of June, the GOP-led state Senate is pushing a revenue package that departs significantly from previous tax-averse attempts.

Republicans have repeatedly clashed with Governor Tom Wolf over the amount of recurring dollars necessary to fill a $2 billion hole in the $32 billion budget.

This new proposal boosts revenue to a level a Wolf spokesman calls “responsible,” and it does so, in part, by raising taxes.

perzsonseo.com / Flickr

The way people buy things—both in Pennsylvania, and around the country—is changing.

Online shopping is on the rise, and sales in physical stores have correspondingly declined. But what hasn’t changed much in Pennsylvania is how it taxes sales. And that’s losing the commonwealth money.

Pennsylvania ended the last fiscal year with revenue from its 6 percent tax around 2 percent below projections—a blow that contributed to its substantial budget shortfall.

Matt Rourke / AP

State Senators are scheduled to return to session Wednesday for a two-day stint, in an effort to iron out differences in a budget that’s nearly a month overdue.

The chamber plans to pick up where it left negotiations two weeks ago, and appears to be largely disregarding last week’s House session.

The major options being considered to fill a $2 billion gap in the $32 billion budget have been borrowing against a state fund to plug last year’s significant shortfall, select fund transfers, and a gambling expansion.

Leaders have also floated some form of tax increase.

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania union leaders are attempting to chart a new course after decades of declining membership.

As members have dwindled, unions' once-strong political sway toward the Democratic party has also shifted.

The change was especially apparent last year, when an overwhelming number of white, union or former union members voted for Donald Trump.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania's one of only four states that still hasn't passed a budget for the fiscal year that ended in June.

Matt Rourke / AP

Nearly two weeks after the state budget deadline, House and Senate members and Governor Tom Wolf do not have an agreement on a revenue plan to fund for it. 

Wolf let the unbalanced spending plan become law Monday night, a decision that puts Pennsylvania in a sort of constitutional no-man’s-land for the second year in a row.

Around the Capitol there’s no clear consensus on whether the state’s allowed to handle its budget this way—or if there are any consequences for doing so.

Matt Rourke / AP

Governor Tom Wolf has allowed an incomplete state budget to become law without his signature after a marathon negotiating session yielded no agreements between his administration and GOP leaders.

Mark Lennihan / AP

Lawmakers are still struggling to reach consensus on how to pay for the state budget. One of the most likely ways they’ll get money to fill a more than $2 billion hole is by borrowing against a state fund created by a 1998 multi-state settlement with tobacco companies.

But the American Lung Association is up in arms against the proposal—saying it’ll probably divert vital resources away from state anti-smoking programs.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

The last month of the fiscal year was a decent one for Pennsylvania, revenue-wise, with returns coming in slightly higher than expected. But it comes at the end of a year of unexpectedly dismal earnings.

The commonwealth ended 2016-17 with its revenues over a billion dollars below projections. Its expectations for the new fiscal year are more modest.

Katie Meyer / WITF

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey’s live TV town hall got off to a raucous start Wednesday, with advocacy groups from across the state showing up outside the Harrisburg studio to criticize the Republican for his support of the Senate GOP’s Affordable Care Act replacement bill.

Toomey spent much of the hour-long event defending the bill, which he helped author.

Matt Rourke / AP

You can tell it’s budget week in Pennsylvania because, on any given day, you’ll find the Capitol packed with lobbyists and advocates from around the commonwealth, pushing for a piece of the pie.

They mill around the rotunda, waiting for news from lawmakers deliberating in chambers upstairs.

This year, there’s been precious little information getting out.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State budgets have two basic parts: one outlines how much government will spend on its programs and expenses, and the other details where lawmakers are getting the money to pay for it.

Last year, the GOP-controlled legislature compromised on a $31.5 billion spending plan, and then took two more weeks to come up with a revenue framework to fit it.

Democratic Governor Tom Wolf let it become law without his signature, declaring at the time that “our budget is balanced this year, and we have greatly reduced the commonwealth’s structural budget deficit.”

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Some lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf took a break from budget negotiations Wednesday to sign a high-profile package of bills into law.

They significantly overhauled the commonwealth’s animal rights legislation, and included a measure that has brought a lot of attention to the issue in the past year: Libre’s Law.

The bill signing saw more fanfare—and barking—than most.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

State lawmakers have made no secret of the fact that next fiscal year’s state budget, which is due Friday, will be a hard one to enact.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The state Senate is considering a plan to allow teachers and other school employees with permits to carry guns at work.

Supporters say it’s about keeping kids safe, while opponents are worried the measure would do just the opposite.

Senate Bill 383 is sponsored by GOP Senator Donald White of Armstrong County, who said it would give schools more options in protecting students.

He added, it could be particularly helpful for rural districts that are far from police stations and might not employ their own security guard.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Lawmakers in Washington are still reading through the finer details of the Senate GOP's new healthcare bill, but opponents are already warning it’ll give states an impossible choice—either cut services, or spend billions more on healthcare.

Daveynin / Flickr

The office of the state auditor general has released a report reviewing Penn State’s rising tuition costs, background check practices and transparency in the wake of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse conviction.

Penn State is an important asset to Pennsylvania, and in his presentation of the report, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale repeatedly stressed the necessity of keeping its reputation intact.

In order to do that, he said PSU still has to improve its background checks in the post-Sandusky era—particularly for employees who have contact with kids.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

As GOP leaders search high and low for more than $2 billion to patch the commonwealth’s budget gaps, one state senator is trying to tempt his colleagues with revenue projections from one of his longtime pet issues—recreational marijuana.

Speranza Animal Rescue

After almost a year of work over two legislative sessions, a comprehensive animal protection bill has passed the legislature, and will soon be signed by the governor.

This time last year, Libre the Boston terrier was near death, suffering from malnutrition and a severe skin infection on the Lancaster farm where he was born and neglected.

Today, he’s enthusiastically sniffing staffers in Adams County Senator Richard Alloway’s office, having become perhaps the best lobbyist Harrisburg has on animal rights.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The Republican majority leaders of Pennsylvania’s House and Senate say they’re determined to put together a budget without raising taxes.

That means making up this year’s $1.5 billion shortfall, plus accounting for a roughly $3 billion structural deficit.

To get it done, the final plan is likely to involve significant borrowing.

One option under consideration would involve using an asset as collateral to get a loan, which would be paid off over 25 years or so.

Matt Rourke / AP

According to Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, he and other Democrats haven’t so far been party to many of the budget negotiations that are heating up in the Capitol.

Zeevveez / Flickr

A contentious bill to prohibit municipalities from taxing or banning plastic bags has passed the legislature, and now faces a potential veto at the hands of Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.

Several manufacturers of the plastic used for disposable shopping bags are based around Pennsylvania, and employ over a thousand people. The Republican sponsors of the bill say that’s the main reason they’re supporting it.

Gov. Tom Wolf / 90.5 WESA

With a little over two weeks until the state budget is due, House and Senate Republicans have been holding closed meetings to hash out details.

Few concrete plans are available, but GOP leaders say they’re on roughly the same page on spending.

A few months ago House Republicans released their budget proposal, which would spend about $800 million less than Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s blueprint and not raise taxes.

The Senate’s GOP majority hasn’t released its own plan yet, and it’s unclear if they will.

Matt Rourke / AP

A group of legislative Democrats are pushing no fewer than twelve bills on voter registration in the House and Senate. They would model expanded voting and voter registration in Pennsylvania after reforms already done in other states.

However, Democrats haven’t even been able to get the measures past the first stage of consideration in the GOP-controlled chambers—the House and Senate State Government Committees.

Gov. Tom Wolf / 90.5 WESA

Legislation’s being introduced in the Senate this week to change how Pennsylvania elects its lieutenant governor.

It was prompted by a scandal that hit Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack recently, which called attention to an apparent rift between himself and Governor Tom Wolf.

In its elections, Pennsylvania uses the relatively uncommon method of having the governor and lieutenant for either party run separately in the primary, and then together in the general election.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House of Representatives quickly introduced and passed a sweeping new gambling bill Wednesday evening, which would significantly expand the industry.

Matt Rourke / AP

An impassioned group of advocates and lawmakers are pushing for two controversial pieces of legislation that would make it harder for women to access abortion services in Pennsylvania.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

After a recent audit found significant accounting, technology, and funding issues in the commonwealth’s unemployment compensation system, the Wolf administration is attempting to correct its course.

But it’s not going to be an easy—or quick—process.

Lawmakers are already expressing frustration with the amount of information they’re getting about the UC system’s financial decisions.

Katie Meyer / WITF

State senators gathered in the Capitol on Sunday evening to move a bill that's been dogging the legislature for the last four years, in various forms.

It would rework the structure of the state's two heavily indebted public pension systems, a change the bill's supporters say mitigates risk to taxpayers.

However, the proposal does little to reduce the state's massive pension debt.

Like several previous GOP pension proposals, it would shift the state's retirement plan to a three-tiered 401-k-style system--effectively reducing benefits for new hires.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

After years of back and forth, Pennsylvania has passed a law to bring its state IDs up to federal standards.

But compliance doesn’t end there.

It’ll still be a multi-year process to phase in the new IDs, and a lot of the timelines and costs are unknown.

The state says it tentatively plans to make the new federal “Real ID” compliant cards available around March 2019.

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